DEWAS, INDIA – When a series of bomb attacks ripped through Muslim neighborhoods, mosques and shrines in India in recent years, suspicion fell firmly on a familiar culprit: Islamist terror. After each incident, scores of Indian Muslims were rounded up, and many were tortured. Confessions were extracted, the names of various militant “masterminds” leaked to the media and links with Pakistan widely alleged.
Never mind that most of the victims were Muslims; it seemed natural to many people, from New Delhi to Washington, to assume the attacks were the work of extremist Pakistani militants and their Indian Muslim sympathizers, intent on fanning religious tensions in India and disrupting the peace process between the nuclear-armed rivals.
But those investigations, and the assumptions behind them, were turned on their head early this year by the confession of a Hindu holy man. Swami Aseemanand told a magistrate that the bomb makers were neither Pakistani nor Muslim but Hindu radicals, bent on revenge for many earlier acts of terrorism across India that had been perpetrated by Muslims.
His statement, subsequently leaked to the media, alleged that a network of radicals stretched right up to senior levels of the country’s Hindu nationalist right wing. It also exposed deep-seated prejudices within the police against the country’s minority Muslim population.
This quote sounds so familiar…I’m pretty sure I’ve heard something really similar lately around here…
In India, there was sober reflection in some quarters about prejudices against Muslims. The Hindu right’s old adage, that “while not every Muslim is a terrorist, every terrorist is a Muslim,” could no longer be trotted out with a straight face.
More damaging were Aseemanand’s accusations against high-ranking members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, a religious group that spreads its Hindu revivalist ideology, known as Hindutva, through a network of schools, charities and clubs.
The RSS, the ideological parent of the country’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, is also engaged in a sometimes violent contest with Christian missionary groups operating in India.
Non-Muslim religious conservatives committing terrorism. Hmmmmm!